“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” – John Wooden, basketball coach
Just about the shortest criticism short of “No” there is. It can really sting, leading us to think that we’re not good enough, not loveable, that we don’t count etc.
When people utter these things they often feel that there’s something wrong in the situation, whether it’s in their own lives or the actual moment you both are experiencing. It’s the verbal equivalent of hitting someone over the head.
There’s no explanation as to what the problem is and we’re left there trying to figure it out. This is not constructive and isn’t of any other benefit than making one person feel relieved and the other feel bad. Zero-sum game.
I was watching a documentary called “Heckler” by Jamie Kennedy. As the title implies it’s about hecklers, but also about critics and the performers subjected to that criticism.
The whole thing, to me, felt like a rant on how these people shouldn’t be allowed their say because of the fact that the things they say can be hurtful. While I understand that there is a need for the criticism to be constructive the documentary itself didn’t provide a constructive way to solve this issue. To be fair, it probably isn’t an easy issue to solve during the course of an hour.
Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear reflections from both sides of the argument for and against critics. Hecklers, well, those who choose that road mostly get what they deserve from life.
So, if we can’t avoid these comments or make them go away, how do we handle it?
This answer is really cliché but it’s short and to the point: “Don’t take it personally!”.
When people give us unconstructive criticism it’s not about us as people. It’s about our actions. Something that we’ve DONE has caused them to react. That doesn’t mean that we as a person are at fault.
We might have the best of intentions and most people might’ve liked it but for this person it didn’t work. That’s fine. We need to accept that fact.
Sure, we might want to think about how we act in the future if it’s something we want to change but that persons feelings don’t dictate whether or not you’re a good person.
There’s a saying that goes: “What other people think of you is none of your business” and I really believe that’s true.
Earlier in my career a conversation was happening right in front of me between two guys and I happened to overhear part of it when one guy said:
“Thanks, man! You know, I’m not creative…”
Since this was kind of my shtick I butted in and said something like: “Don’t kid yourself, we’re all born creative. The lies we tell ourselves tend to come true.”
Now, I wore a broad smile and didn’t think that my statement would be percieved as arrogant or condescending. Clearly, it was. The guy gave me a look and said: “And who the fuck are you?”.
Right at that moment I noticed that the guy had a gun. In my infinite wisdom I politely exited the conversation, pleasantly moving on with my life.
What I could’ve done is to think: “Man, that guy really hated my guts!” and felt really bad about it. What I did instead was to look at the feedback and look at what actions I could take in the future to avoid that type of situation.
1) Don’t just butt in to other peoples conversations without asking for permission.
2) Language. Don’t get preachy, people don’t like that. I know I don’t.
3) Be genuinely interested in understanding the person before dishing out advice. What I was doing was trying to fix what I thought of as a problem. They might not want it fixed for all I know?
We can’t control what other people think of us. If we’re dying to get their approval we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.
This might not stop us from worrying or caring about what other people think of us. What it might do is to let us act in spite of what they think.
I think I’ll leave on that note with a pretty little dance showing the “Law of Diffusion of Innovations” in action while inspiring us to dance like nobody’s watching!
We might look at the above clip and think that it just took one guy inspiring another and then others started to follow.
What no one sees is that the guy had several others come up to him before this and leaving because others didn’t join in.
Did this stop the guy? No.
He kept on dancing 15 minutes on his own before the above clip happened. He didn’t care if others tagged along or not. He just did what he made him happy.
“Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.